Friday, May 22, 2009

The Green-Eyed Monster

The Green-Eyed Monster
Current mood: angsty
Category: Life
Our children are born with a clean slate. As infants, they've quite literally done *nothing* wrong. As parents, our brains are filled with wishes for nothing more than their happiness and success as human beings. As they mature into little people, and their unique personalities begin to shine, we marvel at the traits they've picked up from us as well as their individual idiosyncracies. Life is good.

I never bought into the "terrible two's." Luke was a happy, bouncy and inquisitive boy without being precocious or overly whiny. He was creative and spontaneous and delightful. Once he started school, he was too homesick and frazzled to cause any trouble, and his amazing intelligence was no longer just our wishful thinking; we had tangible proof of his wisdom, wit and ability.

Our divorce has been difficult for Luke, though he wasn't one to lash out as a result, not for the first two years of it. He did, however, retreat internally; he put on quite a bit of weight and preferred solitary company or that of a single friend rather than being a social butterfly. Still, nothing was so overt that we considered having him see a therapist beyond the one visit to a family counselor we arranged upon our separation.

These days, however, my well-mannered, soft-tempered 9-year old little boy has become a green-eyed monster. Not the jealous kind, mind you. The snippy kind. The disrespectful kind. The harshly verbal hostile kind. And it has not been pleasant, ya'll.

My parenting style with Luke has been historically offbeat. My son and I have shared a dynamic that is so far from the norm that it's grown almost impossible for my peers to understand or with which to agree. My approach is firm and consequently, I'm frequently the bad guy in our negative interactions. I get a lot of "I hate you. I want Daddy. Daddy's nicer than you are. I want to live with Daddy instead! Grrrr!" My ex-husband and I share equal custody of Luke, though I'm the "custodial parent," so Luke is with me what amounts to one extra day of the week. Lately, he and I both have been looking forward to our mutual "off-time," when he goes by Daddy and I get some freaking adult alone time.

It just seems like normal problems that might plague him are, as of late, amplified into major life catastrophies, i.e. being unable to finish a Lego set, or losing a ball, or, gasp, reaching across about 2 feet to plug in his XBox controller charger. His temper flares, and he rants into an inconsolable wreck of emotion, though I'm handling it as best as my offbeat, alterna-self can. To my credit, at least nowadays, I'm approaching parenting from a sober perspective, which may be why his trials and tribulations seem to hurt ME more. They're no longer being numbed and overlooked. Not only is my son learning that life is difficult; I'm also discovering that for the first time in many years.

To date, I've never been an advocate of spanking as a way to avert a crisis or a misbehavior, despite my mother's insistance (and that of friends who've spanked) that sometimes what a kid really needs is a swift slap to the behind. I prefer reasoning his misbehavior and frequently, it appeals to his genius-level intellect, in a way other parents just can't relate to their 9-year olds. I walked into parenting vowing never to spank my son. Well, last night I did. His out-of-control outburst and it's requisite disrespect of me finally tested my last nerve beyond reasoning. All of the snippiness, the backtalk, the whiny shitheadedness resulted in a definite slap on the hind end, for which I felt guilty for, well, about 5 minutes. I talked to a couple friends with same-aged children right away and explained the situation, for which I received tentative approval considering the situation. Luckily, for both Luke and I, this happened only about 1/2 hour before his father was to pick him up for the long weekend. So once Craig arrived, I brought him up to speed on the issue and emphasized that my reaction was warranted and that Luke should henceforth lose privileges at Craig's at some time during the weekend, since I would be unable to exact any further punishment during the weekend. They both left, and I breathed an enormous sigh of relief, which I don't necessarily feel good about. I was actually glad I wouldn't see Luke until Tuesday.

I love my son fiercely, and still wish for him to be a well-adjusted, good manly man and not a whining pansy. Tonight at band, I ran into Luke's teacher for next year, who asked me if Luke is looking forward to the 4th grade. I told her, only half jokingly, that he was either heading into 4th grade or a tough ass military academy. The jury's still out.

There was a song that came out, I think, while I was pregnant or Luke was tiny, I can't recall, but it was by Elton John and it was called "Blessed." I am so blessed to have my child, and I realize that this trying time for us both will eventually pass. We just have to weather these storms with God's grace and both learn to cope in a healthier manner. Wish us luck.


by Elton John and Bernie Taupin

Hey you, you're a child in my head
You haven't walked yet
Your first words have yet to be said
But I swear you'll be blessed

I know you're still just a dream
your eyes might be green
Or the bluest that I've ever seen
Anyway you'll be blessed

And you, you'll be blessed
You'll have the best
I promise you that
I'll pick a star from the sky
Pull your name from a hat
I promise you that, promise you that, promise you that
You'll be blessed

I need you before I'm too old
To have and to hold
To walk with you and watch you grow
And know that you're blessed

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Anger Management, Third Grade Style

Luke's still having a world of trouble with the class bully, who persists in kicking, knocking down, poking and hitting my boy on a regular basis, despite my intervention and the teacher's more fastidious observations. Craig and I have given Luke the green light to defend himself should the opportunity and/or need arise, but Luke's a pacifist by both nature and nurture, plus the bully threatened to have his Chicago cop mom arrest my son if he tattles (wank wank, kid, my son's intellect sees right through your vapid line of crap) or slugs back.

So I sought advice on the aforementioned issue from men whose characters I admire; Christopher, The Flaming Lips and Mike Brady from "The Brady Bunch." For the latter, I shared with Luke the Brady episode where Peter is pushed to defend himself (and trained for combat by Mr. Brady) and Cindy vs. school bully Buddy Hinton ("Baby talk, baby talk, it's a wonder you can walk!") and for the former, I showed Luke the Flaming Lips video for "Fight Test." Plus, Christopher laid out for me how to explain to Luke that his two respectable choices in the matter were to either physically defend himself or enforce the rules of the school and tell on the bully, instead of cowering in fear.

Yesterday, I once again took the matter into my own hands and sternly warned the bully after school that should he poke, kick, hit or breathe on my son ever again, he would be in for a world of trouble and that he'd then have to deal with me. The boys have Scouts after school today, during which the Scout leader agreed to have a lesson on bullying, so that's cool. Unfortunately, afterwards, I'll be face-to-face with said Chicago cop bully's mom, who will probably chastise me for scolding her precious angel despite the fact her son honestly deserves to have his butt whipped till Hell won't have it again.

So much for the presumption of safety and high moral credos championed by having the children at a parochial private school.

Unfortunately, the video for "Fight Test" is no longer on YouTube, but here are the lyrics....



The test begins...NOW.

I thought I was smart
I thought I was right
I thought it better not to fight
I thought there was a virtue, in always being cool
So it came time to fight
I thought "I'll just step aside"
And that the time will prove you wrong
And that you would be a fool

I don't know where the sunbeams end
And the starlight begins
It's all a mystery

Oh. To fight is to defend
If it's not now then tell me when
Would be the time
That you would stand up and be a man
For to lose I could accept
But to surrender I just wept
And regretted this moment
oh that
I was the fool

I don't know where the sunbeams end
And the starlight begins
It's all a mystery
And I don't know how a man decides
What's right for his own life
It's all a mystery

'Cause I'm a man, not a boy
And there are things you can't avoid
You have to face them
When you're not prepared to face them
If I could I would
But you're with him, now it'd do no good
I should've fought him
But instead I let him
I let him take it

I don't know where the sunbeams end
And the starlight begins
It's all a mystery
And I don't know how a man decides
What's right for his own life
It's all a mystery

The test is

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Current mood: angsty
Category: Life
I observe Luke's eyes as he plays Halo 3 on his Xbox 360.

Me: "Luke, your pupils are all dilated."

Luke: "What does that mean?"

Me: "They're all ginormous and black."

Luke: "Black?"

Me: "Yeah."

Luke: "OH. I thought you said my NIPPLES were dilated. I was like, 'How can she even see them; I'm wearing a shirt.'"

Me: "I have no idea if your nipples are dilated, nor do I care."

Luke: "Go away, Mommy."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Adieu. Au Revior. Fuck It...A Lesson in Catharsis.

Adeiu. Au Revoir. Fuck it...A lesson in catharsis.
Current mood: hopeful
Category: Life
Tomorrow, I'm finally moving all of my crap out of my apartment in Chicago and into storage. "Camp Swanky," as it was coined by a friend when I moved in, doesn't have very many happy memories assigned to it; rather, it was the setting for many a rock bottom in my life over the past 2 years.

The apartment itself was tits--3 bedrooms, 2 full baths, central AC and heat (trust me, in Chicago, this is a necessity), a huge Jacuzzi, and on two levels...plenty of space for myself and my son.

Unfortunately, Camp Swanky was also home to a feigned quasi suicide attempt, a destructive relationship with another enabling alcoholic and my own eventual alcoholic rock bottom before rehab. It's actually a good thing to be free of a place that harbored so many of my lowest lows in life, all the while considering and applauding how far I've personally come since I resided at the apartment.

What I also learned is that a plentitude of space does not necessarily equate happiness. Having a plethora of "stuff" is, in fact, more stress than it's worth. While I occasionally long for the room to groove on my own which is sorely lacking in the present living arrangement with my mom, I am learning to appreciate the experience. On a day-to-day basis, I essentially have everything here at my mom's that I might need, as does Luke (maybe aside from an extra dose of patience and an extra bathroom).

It's been admittedly refreshing to not have to worry when the Sheriff is going to evict me (lest we forget, my landlord foreclosed on the joint, and the eviction is not at all our fault), and once the extremely busy Eviction Police finally clamp a padlock down on Camp Swanky, my leftover possessions and requisite trash piles will be the bank's problem, not mine.

Briefly, I toyed with the notion of completely pulling up stakes and only moving into storage what I'd already packed, the furniture and material gains be damned. Even at this stage, I'm really only taking what is important or deemed necessary for either practical or emotional reasons, with the rest in "leave here" piles strategically strewn about the apartment.

Reshifting the focus away from "THINGS" and refocusing on Luke and I as "PEOPLE," has been very cathartic, though it's had speckles of anxiety and loss as well, which I'm sure is perfectly normal. Someday Luke and I will have another apartment, and there isn't exactly a lack of stuff in which to decorate, furnish or appoint, for we presently have as much as either of us really needs in life.

I'm also trying to be mindful of the moving experience according to the cognitive behavior therapy in which I take part weekly. For too many months, the daunting task of packing and moving out has loomed heavily in my head, hence procrastinating until the bitter. I'd let Camp Swanky become this metaphorical monster of stress and anxiety, when in reality, it's always been just a bunch of rooms that were filled with my crap.

So tomorrow, movers will take the aforementioned crap and move it into a contained, rented storage facility soon to be full of my crap, and any crap left over is clearly not crap I've needed or thought about any time recently.

By the afternoon, the project will be complete, though I can trudge back there to pack or clean up loose ends until they padlock me out. I haven't yet decided if that will even be necessary.

'Twill be a refreshing load off my shoulders as Camp Swanky is filed into the transoms of my memory and off of my agenda. Stay tuned as my new life unfolds, ya'll, and as John Troast says, "If I'm gonna have to leave it all behind, was it ever really mine?"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Five Beatles Songs I Can't Fucking Stand no particular order. Apologies to the Fab Four, you know I love ye more than life itself, but the following just grind on my last nerve. Apologies to Carl Perkins, I 'spose, as well, as I felt it only fair to throw one sung by each Beatle.

"One After 909"

"I'm Happy Just To Dance With You"

"The Word"



Thursday, February 12, 2009

Melancholy Baby

I promise a proper blog soon. As I always say, "I'm working on it."

Till then, watch this clip to the end...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This Brain is Intentionally Left Blank

I'm so behind on my blogging, for shame. One would think that the natural tendency towards winter hibernation would reward me with copious cave time during which I hone my writing craft, but that has not been the case.  

Today, I am 11 months sober. Eegads, the last time I blogged an original entry was exactly one month ago, on the 10 month sobriety anniversary. To review, it's been a mighty eventful month, during which (mostly in chronological order)...

The holidays came and went, my governor was arrested and impeached, my son turned 9 and the United States inaugurated the first African-American President.

A bitter cold snap followed by record high temperatures caused a domino effect of copper piping cracks in the basement plumbing of Camp Swanky, too costly and laborious to repair, rendering the building unsafe and impractical to inhabit. But we still haven't been given an official eviction date (our landlord foreclosed, remember?), so....

Instead of renting another apartment, Luke and I moved in with my mom due to economic hardship and a shitty job market, which means I'm no longer a squatter, though most of my furniture and crap still squat at the Swank. Unfortunately, I am not making as much headway on getting things packed out of the apartment and into the storage unit I rented last month as I'd like to be, but that's partly because...

I actually am working part time as a personal/executive assistant to a very busy downtown business person. It's mostly puttering and's fun, the pay affords me a bit of cushion and is most likely a job which I could still feasibly perform in the event I eventually find full-time employment elsewhere.

I'm sure I'm leaving out something Big! and Major! that occurred within the last month, but moving on...

You gotta love Pandora's complex, scientific algorhythm by which their servers choose songs they think I *might* enjoy, based on songs, artists or genres whom I've previously rated a thumbs up or thumbs down. While I haven't yet precisely calculated it all out, I must say I get a chuckle out of Pandora segueing "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath straight into "Summer Nights" from the "Grease" soundtrack. Less amusing, however, was the block of music earlier this evening, "Artists From Chicago Who Are Not Jon Langford and Whose Music I Find Deeply Annoying," which featured back-to-back Smashing Pumpkins (blech) and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, the latter managing to sound even more vocally annoying than Bob Dylan on a Bob Dylan cover.

Similarly, Facebook likes to suggest potential friends for me with it's "People You May Know" function. Underneath the potential friend's name, Facebook tells me in what context I may know the person. My favorite is "You both live in Chicago."

It might take me a while, but I'm now determined to become BFF's with all 2.8 million Chicagoans.